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Professional Profile for Terminologists

Professional Profile for Terminologists

In large organisations, a terminology professional can carry out various jobs and tasks such as terminology project manager, terminologist, computational linguist, translator or localization expert.

Terminology work and terminology management are a prerequisite for specialised/technical communication and smooth knowledge transfer. Professional and efficient terminology work entails many positive aspects, since it ensures the quality and consistency of technical documentation and translation. For example, it would ensure fewer errors in communication, reduce costs, save time, facilitate communication, improve quality in authoring of source texts, bring positive effects on translation and improve the workflow in documentation procedures.

Terminology work is an interdisciplinary activity, which involves tasks from a variety of fields such as linguistics, informatics, cognitive science, documentation, and knowledge management, which are carried out in a multilingual and highly-specialised environment. In order to be eligible for the multifaceted job profile of a terminologist, a professional needs to possess specific skills, competences and knowledge.

Tasks Description:

Before focusing on the Professional Profile of a terminologist, here is a summary of the typical tasks carried out by a terminologist:

  • Give training on terminology work (how build and maintain term resources)
  • Give consultation and support on terminology
  • Terminology database management (administer and maintain termbases: updating, cleaning, merging terminology entries)
  • Design and implement terminology management systems
  • Terminology work (write definitions, coin new terms, define concepts, name new concepts or new products)
  • Communication with subject-matter experts (to determine the appropriate terms for concepts)
  • Terminology planning activity (analyse terminology needs of companies and design/implement an efficient terminology management workflow/assessment and strategy)
  • Organise and lead a terminology team
  • Analyse and test terminology software available on the market
  • Develop mono- or multilingual terminology databases
  • Prepare and manage terminology collections (terminology databases such as glossary, vocabulary, nomenclature, term list, etc.)
  • Set up a termbase and data structure compliant with industry standards
  • Lead terminology projects

Managing all these different tasks in the field of terminology requires skills and daily tasks in the four broad competency areas: linguistics, IT, communication and management. A terminology professional would ideally have strengths and skills in as many of these areas as possible. The key skills required from a professional terminologist can be summarised as the following:

Terminology and Language Skills:

  • Advanced knowledge of the principles of terminology (theory and practice)
  • Mastery of terminological working methods (normative and descriptive terminology)
  • Knowledge of linguistic principles
  • Competence in field-specific languages
  • Excellent language competence in mother-tongue
  • Proficiency in at least one language in addition to the native language
  • Linguistic creativity and highly developed feel for languages
  • Research competences and ability to identify essential information
  • Management competence of terminology collections
  • Competence of knowledge management (KM)
  • Ability to create and/or collocate terminological resources for specific purposes or target groups

Management and Communication Skills:

  • Project management competence
  • Intercultural competence
  • Ability to plan and manage processes and projects
  • Ability for teamwork and networking
  • Capacity to make and implement strategic decisions in coordination with other units within the organization
  • Didactic competencies relating to terminology
  • Knowledge-transfer and teaching skills
  • Competences in using media technologies
  • Competence to liaise with external experts
  • Competences related to netiquette, confidentiality, data safety
  • Knowledge about basic legal aspects, terminology standards and copyright

Technical Skills:

  • Mastery of electronic tools for terminology management and their interfaces with other applications
  • Basic knowledge of information technology and documentation
  • Tools expertise, including the ability to evaluate relevant software, such as: terminology management systems (TMS), computer assisted translation (CAT), Machine Translation (MT), TMS interfaces to other applications, Term extraction tools, and related tools such as concordancing software
  • Proficiency in the use of terminology databases
  • Competence in information theory and knowledge management (ontologies, data fields, big data, semantic web etc.)
  • Good general IT competence (office application, especially Excel)
  • Basic knowledge of mark-up language
  • Mastery of different browsers and defining efficient research criteria (search operators, regular expressions)

Soft Skills:

  • Power of persuasion and argumentative ability
  • Abstract thinking skills
  • Systematic work approach
  • Ability to work in intercultural teams
  • Negotiation skills
  • Multitasking
  • Inter- and intracultural thinking (also in the working cultures)
  • Ability to recognise cultural differences
  • Creativity and flexibility
  • Ability to present reasoned and convincing arguments
  • Social competences
  • Ability to resolve problems
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